Live Music: Olga Kern

Ready to see OlgaWe have to break our routine to catch this chance to see Olga Kern play, one night only, on a weeknight. We have four tickets, birthday gifts to Ann from Dad last April. Ann, in continuity with our departure from habit, invites two twin boys we know to come for their first classical concert. This lends an air of significance and excitement to the evening.

We pick the twins up in Loveland at 4:30 pm. Threats of a blizzard have been haunting the forecast all day, but so far it has remained clear and only a little windy. We make it through Denver without any major traffic delays, and park at the University of Denver’s Center for the Performing Arts. Ann mapped a Tokyo Joe’s nearby, which we walk across campus to reach. In the spirit of trying new things the boys sample some Ahi Tuna Sushi. ‘Bland’ seems to be the verdict, and a little fear of sickness from Anthony. Walking back to the center, though, they’re already talking about trying it again. Turner entertains us with his zany food dreams.

The boys do a remarkable job sitting in one place for a lot of piano music. Olga is playing solo tonight, so there’s no orchestra to distract from her. Her playing is amazing as usual, but I’m a bit taken aback by some theatrics we didn’t see much of before. She adds arm flourishes, hunches over, or arches her back and pulses erotically. Ann thought she looked like she was doing a Marilyn Monroe impersonation with her bleached hair and red lipstick. It bothers me that this seems to be almost like a dance routine she performs while playing. Is it still a genuine expression of her emotional reaction to the music? It’s incredibly impressive to watch, but I’m reluctant somehow to fully buy into it.

The program:
Mendelssohn Viations sérieuses in D minor, Op 35. A good piece to get warmed up, I think, energizing.
Chopin Bolero in C Major, Op 19. Brings to my mind the streets of Paris, what little I have seen of them.
Chopin Sonata No. 2 in B-flat minor, Op 35. I found this piece just as moving as I did when CSU professor Janet Landreth played it in Fort Collins. Full of the energy and cycles of life.
Rachmaninov Morceaux de fantaisie, Op 3. One of Rachmaninov’s early compositions, full of intimations of grand things to come.
Liszt Réminiscenses de Don Juan. I found this technically impressive, but overly showy and repetitive.

Olga did three short encores that she seemed to genuinely enjoy playing for us. Her “performance persona” was lifted for these, which made them almost the most enjoyable part for me.

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